Why would someone from Canada drive to Maine to buy a turkey?
November 14, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Why would someone from Canada drive to Maine to buy a turkey?

As I was shopping in my local (Portland, Maine) grocery store this morning I turned a corner and came upon a group of around 50 women loading up their carts with frozen turkeys.

Each of them bought about 3 frozen turkeys and a few other items. I asked one of the store employees about this and he said that they bused in from Canada to buy turkeys. And when I went out to my car, there they were - loading up a bus with their purchases.

Portland, Maine is about 5 hours from the Canadian border, so it's not like this was a short trip. Why would they do this? Are turkeys that much cheaper in the US than in Canada? Or is this part of some sort of pre-holiday tradition - perhaps part of a larger shopping expedition?
posted by suki to Shopping (10 answers total)
I grew up in a wee border town in Ontario, and my mom always goes across the border to get our Christmas turkey. They are much cheaper, and (in my family's experience, at least) tend to be meatier and tastier. I'm not sure why.

Five hours is a long way, though. I imagine it was part of a bigger shopping trip.
posted by torisaur at 7:37 AM on November 14, 2010

Turkeys -- especially if they're on sale for US Thanksgiving -- are much cheaper, as are many other groceries (and CAD is strong right now). Also, different drugs are available OTC in the US and in Canada.

This was almost certainly part of a larger shopping trip, though it's puzzling that they bought only turkeys and not many other groceries. Perhaps it's part of a longer trip so they can get higher exemptions at the border.
posted by jeather at 7:45 AM on November 14, 2010

My grandmother used to drive to Burlington (from Montreal) to buy her groceries about once a month. She definitely made a special trip for turkeys around this time of year.
(I would drive a long way for some Excedrin and Aquaphor, actually.)
posted by OLechat at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2010

Growing up I remember my parents picking up turkeys while on border shopping trips as well. The birds were so much cheaper then (80s/90s), so I can imagine they are even more so now with the dollar closer to parity. In fact, I'm pretty sure my mom spent a good decade or so even refusing to consider cooking a canadian bird, so they probably tasted better, too. (Americans sometimes use different growth hormones, etc - to the point where my brother is actually allergic to American milk.) We were a little closer to the border though, so if there were no lineups we could feasibly be across the line in 30 minutes. But I could see picking some up as part of a larger shopping trip that took 5+ hours.
posted by cgg at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2010

People in Romania, five to seven hours from the Hungarian border, will drive to Hungary at certain times of the year to buy turkeys. Bear in mind that the "road trip" mentality doesn't really exist here, fewer people even have cars, and gas is double or triple what it is in the states. And most of these people are also obligated to buy a highway pass to drive to Hungary. I asked them why they did it, and they all said simply that Hungarian turkeys were way, way better. Why that is, I couldn't say.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2010

Everything in the States is about 15-20% cheaper than it is in Canada. Plus, for some people, crossing a border and traveling 5 hours on an Interstate is fun.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2010

Most folks I know that participate in cross-border shopping usually just use the lower price of things as an excuse for a quick holiday. I would have to purchase a lot of turkeys to make up for the tank of gas it'd cost me to get to the states. Unless you live in a border city, I am not sure how one would save money on it.
posted by glip at 9:16 AM on November 14, 2010

The current exchange rate is also in favor of driving to the US to shop. (Right?)
posted by maryr at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2010

I don't buy meat so maybe I am mistaken but I don't remember seeing any turkeys today in my Canadian supermarket, I think I only see them at the beginning of October and December. Maybe the Canadians felt like a nice turkey dinner between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And yeah, my parents have only ever buy their turkeys in the States for the past 25 years (three hour round-trip).
posted by saucysault at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you! I was just looking at the flyer for Hannaford and see that turkey went on sale this week, starting this morning.

I still can't figure out the economics of making a 10 hour journey to save some money on a turkey, but I suspect the trip is as much for the adventure as for the "savings." Those women were having a blast.
posted by suki at 1:04 PM on November 14, 2010

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